Today’s Fiji Times editorial….
“THE process of seeking public opinion on the proposed People’s Charter is nothing less than a farce. It is impossible for anyone in this country to read and form an opinion of the document within the time frame specified by field officers and their police escorts.
On Tuesday night the proposed charter was distributed to people in the Nausori Parish Hall. They were expected to read the document in two hours while listening to the views of the team sent to proselytize the message of the interim government and the National Council for Building a Better Fiji. At the end of the session, attendees were told to fill forms to declare their support, or otherwise, for the proposed People’s Charter.
This is ridiculous.
Every individual must be allowed time to thoroughly read this document which will have an obvious impact on their lives. They must also be given the opportunity to discuss the issue with their neighbours, friends, relatives or people whose views they respect.
At the very least, anyone who wants to read this literature must be given a week in which to read the document, seek opinions and make a choice.
This would mean that the proposed charter document be delivered to homes on one week with the forms being collected seven days later. It would also mean that citizens do not have to make a decision with a police officer or soldier hovering in the background.
The architects of the charter know full well the perception which ordinary people have of the police and army. They view these officers as enforcers of State policy and fear the repercussions of rejecting this document.
Intimidation is the only word we have to describe the process.
At Navua on Wednesday night, people at Tokotoko, Calia and Raiwaqa gathered for a Ramayan recital in their settlements.
At these religious gatherings, government teams accompanied by uniformed police and soldiers in plain clothes distributed the charter document and demanded they be signed on the spot. Much earlier in this process we made the stand that if the regime is so bent on implementing the charter, it must not waste taxpayers’ money and time.
The people of this nation must not be used to legitimize the policies of the interim government, the army and the NCBBF. Nor should civil servants be travelling round the country, neglecting the jobs for which they are paid in what is so obviously a political campaign. The interim government must decide once and for all whether it wants the people to have a say in the governance of the country.
If the people are to decide, give them time and stop the intimidation.”